Marketing Method: Ghostbusters (2016)

So finally, the trailer for the new Ghostbusters is out! Here it is:

So far, the reaction has been… mixed. Some have loved the new trailer and celebrated it as an exciting new entry. Others have had a… different reaction. Well, it’s sparked debate – so that’s something the marketing department did right, I guess?

Let’s get into it.

Speaking from a personal standpoint as someone who has followed the development of this new Ghostbusters, this trailer is confusing. Look at how it starts, “30 years ago, four scientists saved the world…” or something like that. Oh cool, so it’s a sequel right?

Apparently not, no. In a recent interview regarding his new movie, Paul Feig confirmed that his Ghostbusters is a reboot(or remake, whatever the popular term is these days). He even went in-depth to explain his reasoning in avoiding a sequel. Agree or disagree, as director – he gets to make that call. Unfortunately, the people making the trailer must not have seen this interview.

If it's a reboot, then it makes sense to have a "coming together" opening. Here's hoping the film moves a little more quickly than the original.
If it’s a reboot, then it makes sense to have a “coming together” opening. Here’s hoping the film moves a little more quickly than the original.

This did the trailer no favors as audiences received an opening that promised a sequel and went into a lot of shots that frankly looked familiar. Remember this library opening from the original? This one:

Well, here it is again!

Screen-Shot-2016-03-03-at-8.30.06-AM-700x291

Three scientists coming together to fight ghosts?

Check.
Check.

An additional black Ghostbuster who is not initially part of the team (and probably not a scientist)?

Check.
Check.

Ghostbusters saving the city of New York from an apparent sudden ghost surge?

Well… okay that one isn’t fair. Every Ghostbusters movie should hopefully involve Ghostbusters fighting ghosts in some way. I would hope. Oh, but there’s also Slimer:

gb6

Point being, for a trailer that opens with the implication of sequel, there is a lot of retreading common ground. This likely goes a long way to explain at least some of the negative reaction. Personally, I think this addresses most of the fair criticism. The rest is subjective but probably a little reactionary.

“The jokes don’t work. The ghosts look CG (spoiler: they are). The writing sucks. The movie isn’t funny.”

Calm down – we’ve seen less than two minutes. Now, have I seen better trailers? I have. That being said, and this is again personal opinion, is too much emphasis being placed on the trailer rather than the team behind it?

Let’s look at another movie coming out soon: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. That film has trailers that are kinda all over the place. The first trailer offered an emotionally charged look at why Batman and Superman would fight. It didn’t get into too much plot, but provided a hook. The second trailer… likely told the entirety of the movie. Seriously, I don’t know for sure but I’m going to bet that after I see Batman v. Superman, I’m going to feel the same way.

That, in my opinion, was not a well put together piece of publicity. It suggested the unending need for more to satisfy the audience.

“Bored with Batman – we got Superman! Don’t like Superman – how about Doomsday? We also got Lex Luthor! Oh, here’s Wonder Woman! Justice League!!!!”

"WE ALSO HAVE AQUAMAN! PLEASE BE EXCITED!!"
“WE ALSO HAVE AQUAMAN! PLEASE BE EXCITED!!”

It cried a certain desperation that Batman and Superman are not interesting enough on their own.

But I am getting sidetracked. At the end of the day, Batman v. Superman is a movie made by Zack Snyder, a director with a… less than steady history (to put it objectively). Man of Steel, Sucker Punch, 300, Legend of the Guardians… Snyder does not have a consistent record when it comes to quality cinema.

Let’s look at Paul Feig, creator of Freaks and Geeks, Bridesmaids, the Heat, and Spy. While I have not seen the Heat (which has the lowest critical ranking of his recent films), that is a more impressive list to me. Spy was one of my favorite comedies of last year and has a trailer that looks:

Okay, I got it. Feig needs to hire some new trailer people.

It is strange to note that Snyder’s name is still being used for advertising, while Feig’s name is left off the Ghostbusters trailer.

Is there something more behind the seemingly incredibly malicious response to the trailer? Remember: people seem to love Star Wars: the Force Awakens, a sequel that had quite a few remake-ish similarities with a New Hope. I’m not going to get into it in this article – my short answer is I don’t know, maybe.

“I thought about it for a very long time. Like, many, many months. No, that’s not right. I was seriously thinking about this for years, really … It kept eating at me, and I really respect those girls. And then I started to feel like if I didn’t do this movie, maybe somebody would write a bad review or something, thinking there was some sort of disapproval [on my part].”             - Bill Murray on why he ultimately decided to be in the new Ghostbusters.
“I thought about it for a very long time. Like, many, many months. No, that’s not right. I was seriously thinking about this for years, really … It kept eating at me, and I really respect those girls. And then I started to feel like if I didn’t do this movie, maybe somebody would write a bad review or something, thinking there was some sort of disapproval [on my part].” – Bill Murray on why he ultimately decided to be in the new Ghostbusters.
There are legitimate criticisms to be sure, and the most frightening possibility that the studio might be trying to interfere with the movie in a classic example of “wanting it both ways.” That would not bode well.

So is Ghostbusters a sequel or a reboot? Who knows. Hopefully it’s not both.

Is it going to be a good movie? Too early to tell. At the very least, it appears to be in good hands.

Here is a trailer for the original Ghostbusters for contrast:

So full of jokes!

Leave Harry Potter Alone, J. K. Rowling!

In 2007, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released. The seventh book in the series concluded the adventures of Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger. The three finished Hogwarts, defeated Lord Voldemort and went on to live happily ever after. In short: series done. With this finale came the expected sadness. The adventures were over and, short of fanfiction, there would be no future installments to talk about with friends. What a horrible existence. Thank god for J.K. Rowling.

Less than four months after she finished with Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling came out to announce the important facts not already covered by her book series. Burning questions were answered and finally everyone knew: Dumbledore was gay. Obviously questions were asked after this revelation by a thankful reading public. Gratitude-filled inquiries like: “What does this have to do with the series?” and “Why did she say that?” and “Who really cares?”. Yes, everyone was happy. J.K. Rowling especially. For an arbitrary declaration, she got to see her name once more decorate the headlines. It was like casting a magic spell.

J.K. Rowling: boldly answering questions that no one asked.
J.K. Rowling: boldly answering questions that no one asked.

Evidently J.K. Rowling enjoyed the response to her post-series declarations so much that she decided to do it again. Very recently, the author has come out with new information: Hermione should have ended up with Harry Potter. It’s funny how well those old questions reapply themselves here.

Rowling isn’t the first author to be unable to let go of her beloved creation. Look no further than J.R.R. Tolkien to see an author who became consumed with his created universe. The difference here is: Tolkien kept writing books to expound upon the history of Middle-Earth. What a sucker. J.K. Rowling hasn’t made a significant contribution to Harry Potter in years and her name still keeps making headlines.

Tolkien's long-winded announcement of "Frodo and Sam are gay."
Tolkien’s long-winded announcement of “Frodo and Sam are gay.”

True, Rowling could write another book. One shaped by her personal growth and more reflective upon the universe, but that would be too drastic. A book like that would completely change the tone of the series and might, in all likelihood, discard or contradict everything said in previous installments. I mean, no other book in history has done that, at least no other really famous book in history… like really really famous:

Almost as if it were written over hundreds of years by many different authors.
Almost as if it were written over hundreds of years by many different authors.

 

Okay but when is lightning going to strike twice?

I know I’ve been really tongue-and-cheek, but a serious comparison does exist here for Rowling. George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, angered his fans for years with constant and continued changes to his creations. Lucas’ defense was simple: he made it, he decides what’s best. But is that true with major works? There is a real argument to be made that creations such as Harry Potter and Star Wars have become bigger than their creators. They have entered the public space and thus: belong to the public.

This documentary explores the notion of ownership. Really a sequel could be made that focuses on Rowling.
This documentary explores the notion of ownership. Really a sequel could be made that focuses on Rowling.

That same public does not want the change. If J.K. Rowling has new insights to say on Harry Potter then new books should be written. Sequels, prequels (look how well those worked out for George Lucas), just something new. At the moment: no such plan exists. There was a joke released last year that claimed Rowling was working on new installments, but it was just that.

Who knows what the future will bring for Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling. Maybe next year she’ll announce that she regrets writing the fifth book, or that Harry should have ended up with Ron or that she never should have written that unbelievably sappy epilogue to end her series. The good news for the fans is this: Harry Potter won’t change. There is an advantage to books over movies: it’s that much harder to make Special Editions.

Your move, J.K. Rowling.
Your move, J.K. Rowling.